2012 Human Rights Film Series


Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home (2010)

An empathetic but tough-minded documentary that invites us into a part of Los Angeles that many choose to ignore-downtown's skid row. As we meet the distressed area's residents, including a former Olympic runner, a transgendered punk rocker, and an eccentric animal lover and her devoted companion, their remarkable stories paint a multifaceted portrait of life on the streets. There are undeniable problems-mental illness and addition are common themes-but there is also hope and a surprising sense of community. Lost Angels is also a scathing condemnation of the Safer Cities Initiative of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton. Although its stated purpose is to reduce crime in the area, for many the program is nothing more than officially sanctioned class warfare, unfairly targeting the low income and homeless population of skid row in what some feel is an effort to pave the way for gentrification.


Bag It (2010)

Bag It has been garnering awards at film festivals across the nation. What started as a documentary about plastic bags evolved into a wholesale investigation into plastics and their effect on our waterways, oceans, and even our bodies. In the United States alone, an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used annually to make the plastic bags that Americans consume. The United States International Trade Commission reported that 102 billion plastic bags were used in the U.S. in 2009. These bags often wind up in waterways or on the landscape, becoming eyesores and degrading water and soil as they break down into toxic bits. Their manufacture, transportation and disposal use large quantities of non-renewable resources and release equally large amounts of global-warming gases. Ecologically, hundreds of thousands of marine animals die every year when they eat plastic bags mistaken for food. There are many dangers involved with bisphenol A and phthalates, two additives commonly used in plastic. BPA makes plastic hard and phthalates make plastic soft. BPA and phthalates are two plastic additives that are known endocrine disruptors. Both are known endocrine disruptors. We all come into contact with these toxic chemicals through our food, personal care products and plastic containers. 

Inside Job (2010)

The Best Documentary of 2010, Inside Job is a the first film to expose in depth the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia.[The film argues that] the worst financial crisis since the Depression, which continues to haunt us via Europe's debt problems and global financial stability...was a completely avoidable crisis...and that the progressive deregulation of the financial sector since the 1980s gave rise to an increasingly criminal industry, whose "innovations" [such as credit default swaps] have produced a succession of financial crises...yet nobody has gone to prison, despite fraud that caused trillions of dollars in losses. 

Blue Gold: World Water Wars (2008)

In every corner of the globe, we are polluting, diverting, pumping, and wasting our limited supply of fresh water at an expediential level as population and technology grows. The rampant overdevelopment of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the finite supply, resulting in the desertification of the earth. Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geo-political map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars. [The film follows] numerous worldwide examples of people fighting for their basic right to water, from court cases to violent revolutions to U.N. conventions to revised constitutions to local protests at grade schools. As Maude Barlow proclaims, "This is our revolution, this is our war." A line is crossed as water becomes a commodity. Will we survive? 

When We Leave (2010)  (Die Fremde)

German-born Umay flees from her oppressive marriage in Istanbul, taking her young son Cem with her. She hopes to find a better life with her family in Berlin, but her unexpected arrival creates intense conflict. Her family is trapped in their conventions. They are torn between their love for her and the traditional values of their community. Ultimately, they decide to return Cem to his father in Turkey. To keep her son, Umay is forced to move again. She finds the inner strength to build a new life for herself and Cem, but her need for her family's love drives her to a series of ill-fated attempts at reconciliation. What Umay doesn't realize is just how deep the wounds are and how dangerous her struggle for self-determination has become. The film garnered the Best Film and Best Actress honors at the 2010 German Film Awards. 

Memory: A Holocaust Survivor's Story (2012)

Produced by Duquesne's own Dr. Dennis Woytek, assistant professor of journalism and multimedia arts, with the assistance of Jessica Blank, a Jewish student and senior digital media arts major, Memory: A Holocaust Survivor's Story tells the story of Howard Chandler, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor, who returns to his home village in Poland and visits the concentration camps where he was imprisoned during World War II. Dr. Woytek and Ms. Blank traveled to Poland this past summer with Mr. Chandler, along with members of Classrooms Without Borders Pittsburgh, a non-profit that connects teachers to multicultural experiences to create a global learning community." Our goal as a documentary film crew was to record the events, the experiences of the group and to record Howard Chandler as he again walked in his footsteps that brought so much sadness more than 67 years ago," Woytek said. Chandler was only 14 when he was forced into slave labor by the Nazi regime after the Nazis invaded Poland. He was later sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a concentration camp where nearly 3 million people lost their lives. For Blank, the experience deepened her resolve to preserve Holocaust experiences of the survivors and tell of the personal courage involved in such a dark time in history.